When it comes to reality television, the most successful shows are usually those that depict the kinds of lives and situations that most television viewers cannot relate to or do not understand. Those shows offer insight into something that most of the rest of the world is completely unfamiliar with.
Such is the case with TLC's Sister Wives, which offers a peek into the lives of a polygamous man, Kody Brown, and his four wives. Although Kody is only legally married to one of those wives, he calls the rest his spiritual wives and they all live happily together in front of the cameras for entertainment purposes.
Although much of the drama of Sister Wives happens in front of the cameras, including one of their 17 children coming out as gay, there are also some dark secrets that the show would try and keep hidden. It seems that this isn't exactly the happy family that viewers see on TV, but a confused and convoluted group of people just trying to live a polygamous lifestyle in a world that is at odds with them. Their lifestyle is drama in and of itself.
Here are 15 Dark Secrets Behind Sister Wives.
15 Meri cheated on Kody with a catfish
One of the most dramatic moments of Sister Wives happened in 2015 when Meri admitted that she had an online affair with someone she assumed was a man. But in the end, Meri discovered that this man's online persona was completely fake. In truth, that person was a woman who catfished Meri to get details about the secrets behind the Brown family.
“During an emotional and vulnerable time earlier this year, I began speaking with someone online who turned out to be not who they said they were,” Meri told People. "“I never met this person and I regret being drawn into this situation, but I hope because of it I can help others who find themselves in similar circumstances.”
Although she stated that the Brown family will stick together, this, obviously, is still a matter the family struggles with.
14 Kody Brown spends most of his nights with just Robyn
Kody Brown might be spiritually married to three of his wives, but rumors suggest that he only shares his bed with his legal wife, Robyn.
Many insiders believe that Meri's emotional online affair took its toll on the large family and that Kody now only wants to have a physical relationship with Robyn, meaning that he spends most of his nights with her. Robyn is also the most recent of the wives; she still has that "new wife" appeal, so this isn't as far-fetched as it sounds.
So how did these rumors start? The woman who catfished Meri says that Meri admitted that the relationship with the wives was a difficult one and complained online about how Robyn got most of the attention in the polygamous family.
13 The wives barely know each other
On television, the Brown family seems very close. Promotional images from the show depict a family who are very fond of each other, with the wives generally hugging each other, holding hands and looking as if they are very close.
The truth is that they barely know each other. It seems that they are all so busy with their individual lives that they really don't make time for each other. This all came to light in a tell-all special about the show, where Meri admitted that they rarely see each other, including when they spend time with Kody together.
In fact, when Christine was in the hospital with dialysis, none of the other wives ever visited her. Kody rarely visited her either, which is really bizarre.
12 They only pretend to be happy on the show
Part of the reason the Browns agreed to make their lives into a reality television show is that they wanted to depict the normal lives of people living in a polygamous relationship. But they also wanted people to see that they're happy, so that's what the TLC series shows, in spite of some of the more dramatic episodes.
Although the Browns are all smiles on TV, they aren't quite so happy behind the scenes. One of Robyn's former close friends, Kendra Pollard-Parra, recently suggested that the Browns are currently at each others' throats. Not only are they dealing with the fall-out from Meri's catfishing scandal, but the wives are also engaging in fighting over Kody's favoritism.
“It’s worse than ever," Pollard-Parra told In Touch Weekly. "The family is arguing constantly. They pretend to be happy for the show, but the family is a mess."
11 Kody propositioned one of Robyn’s friends - in front of Robyn
All of that infighting with the wives is probably taking a huge toll on the Brown family. In her interview, Parra also suggested that because of the drama from the other four wives, Kody is now in the market for a fifth spouse. She told In Touch Weekly that he is “definitely seeking another wife right now. He wants a younger female, basically what Robyn used to be.”
But it gets even worse, because Parra claims that Brown actually propositioned her for that position.
“The first time he met me he said, ‘You’re so pretty'" Parra said. "'I’m looking for another wife!’ Robyn was laughing, but I was like, 'Eww!'”
So yes, Kody Brown actually propositioned one of Robyn's good friends right in front of Robyn.
10 Janelle was once married to Meri’s brother
In a family with four wives and a lot of children, the family tree starts getting really convoluted. It also seems that polygamous families end up only spending time with those in their extended family, so romantic relationships from within are often likely.
Before she married Kody, Janelle was actually married to the brother of her fellow sister-wife, Meri. These details wound up on the television show, but it's still a secret they kept until that moment.
The truth came out after court documents from Janelle's divorce to the man came to light. A little digging discovered that her ex was Meri's brother. What's even more bizarre is that Janelle fell in love with Kody while she was with Meri's brother. What happens in the Brown family literally stays in the Brown family, apparently.
9 The family got kicked out of their church
Earlier this year, all these dark secrets and scandals began to pile up for the Brown family, so much so that their church, the Apostolic United Brethren, kicked the entire family out. This came after one of the Brown children, Mariah, came out as gay, as well as Meri's catfishing incident.
“From day one Kody pitched the show as a documentary, but a lot of people in the faith think that this has become a straight-up reality TV show for ratings,” an anonymous source told Radar Online. “This has been brewing for a long time and Meri’s catfishing scandal was the final straw. It was a huge, kind of war in the church. The church elders told Kody that he would never be welcomed back, even if the family moved back to Utah.”
8 Kody rarely sees his daughters, but sees his sons often
It seems that Kody doesn't just play favorites with his wives, but also with his children. With 17 children, it's obviously difficult to spend a lot of time with any single child, but reportedly Kody barely sees his daughters at all, preferring to spend the majority of his free time with his sons.
It sort of makes sense because the Brown Family does have very conservative views about the female place in the household, so part of his reasoning is that he wants the girls to focus on household duties instead while he spends time "roughhousing" with the boys.
Anyone who has watched the show can tell that his relationships with his daughters often seem strained, because the girls rarely look comfortable in his presence - particularly in more recent episodes.
7 The sudden move to Vegas was just for ratings
It's likely that most viewers who watch reality television know that sometimes what they see on these shows isn't exactly a true version of reality or what really happened. In fact, many reality television shows go so far as scripting episodes with an actual plot that writers have in mind all along.
Perhaps this is what happened with the episode where the Brown family had to suddenly pick up everything and move from Utah to Nevada because of legal issues around them living as polygamists. But Christine's aunt, Kristyn Decker, said this was mostly just for ratings.
“They talked about moving to Vegas [to escape Utah’s anti-polygamy laws] long before they did," she told Radar Online. "That was their plan and they used the State coming after them for ratings. That’s my strong opinion.”
6 Kody is probably cheating on all four of the wives
It's probably not a stretch of the imagination to think that Kody is the kind of man that cheats on his wives. He pretty much cheated on all three of his wives each time he gained a new wife. And now with all the drama surrounding the family, particularly with Meri's catfishing online affair, it seems that maybe Kody is already having an affair with a fifth woman.
There are also a lot of rumors about three of the wives ditching him earlier this year, leaving him with just one wife - which is, obviously, something he, nor a series about polygamy, can deal with. It's likely, though, that no one will actually leave the family because of this, although affairs are likely in such a situation.
5 Rumors report that Robyn will ask for a divorce soon
With everything that's going on, and with Robyn being the most recent wife to get caught up in the Brown family drama, is it possible that she'll get fed up and leave?
Although it seems that Kody favors her over the rest, some insiders believe that she might file for divorce soon. But there's one big problem: sources also say that Robyn is pregnant with her third child with Kody.
“Robyn has been planning to divorce him for a long time,” Pollard-Parra told Life & Style. “Being pregnant has not changed her mind. She’s saved up enough money to retain a lawyer. This is really the end of Sister Wives.”
Robyn is due any day now, so fans will have to wait and see what happens.
4 Kody and the wives faced bigamy charges in Utah
Although the sudden move from Utah to Nevada episode was probably fake, the truth is that the Brown family did get charged with bigamy in the state of Utah. The investigation into the charges began shortly before the move between states. However, those charges eventually got dropped.
"I want to express our great relief for the Brown family that this long-standing threat has been finally lifted," Jonathan Turley, the Browns' attorney, said in a statement. "The family has spent years being publicly denounced as felons by prosecutors and had to move to Nevada to protect their family and children."
Although those charges went away, the Brown family still plans on suing the state of Utah for its laws that they insist infringe upon their rights.
3 Kody and Meri (his first wife) filed for bankruptcy in 2005
Things weren't always so rosy for the Brown family: back when Kody only had three wives, the family had some financial difficulties and ended up filing for bankruptcy.
In 2005, the legally married Kody and Meri claimed that they only had about $15 in cash to their names, but they owed over $200,000 to creditors, including $40,000 in credit card debt. They also owned a lot of money to Sears, Home Depot, and Best Buy, with collection agencies on their tails about paying back their debt.
The court closed their case in 2007 and ordered them to pay nearly all the $200,000 to trustees, attorneys, and creditors that they still owed money to. At the time, Kody was a sales rep and Meri worked for a company that created engraved trophies.
2 Their children chose not to lead polygamous lives
Although raised to believe in conservative polygamous values, the Brown children seem to not want that for their own lives, preferring monogamous relationships instead. Mariah, who came out as gay on the show, was one of the first children to deny that lifestyle for herself.
"I think I've just grown a lot over the past few years and taken a step back and maybe thought more about what I want and how I want my life to turn out," she said in a special.
Aspyn was the second child to speak out about her choice not to follow in her parents' footsteps: "I'm the same," Aspyn said. "I don't want to do plural marriage. I kind of feel bad that none of us want to, but it was just not what we were meant to do, I guess."
1 Maddie Brown got pregnant by the brother of Kody’s sister-in-law
As previously mentioned, the family trees of polygamous people tend to get very complex, especially when there are children involved. That means that most of the children probably only spend time with their extended family, meaning that romantic relationships are likely to happen with relatives. So it's no big surprise that Maddie Brown fell in love with Caleb Brush, who is the brother of Kody's sister-in-law, Erica Brush Brown. Fortunately, that means that they're not related by blood.
Last year, Maddie announced that she and Caleb expected a child, with the baby arriving earlier this year. Maddie is yet another of the Brown children who chose not to live in a polygamous relationship. She and Caleb only have plans on being married to each other.
Do you have any other Sister Wives secrets to share? Leave them in the comments!